Review Date: Friday, February 4, 2011

Here In Bongo Congo Good King Leonardo has declared that we review this week an eclectic trio of comics, one from an established, iconic creator along with two new titles introducing some newly-created superheroes:

Batman/Catwoman: Follow The Money #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Howard Chaykin: Writer and Artist
Jesus Aburto: Colors
DC Comics currently has an interesting-looking one-shot Batman universe comic on the new issues shelves, entitled Batman/Catwoman: Follow The Money #1. The comic book is both written and drawn by veteran comics creator Howard Chaykin, with colors by Jesus Aburto. For the uninitiated, Howard Chaykin is a very well-known veteran of the comics industry, renowned among his many efforts for pioneering through his popular American Flagg! comic title, published by First Comics in the 1980's, the emergence of a literate graphic storytelling style that appealed beyond hardcore comic book fans to readers of all fiction genres. Chaykin also created the popular The Shadow mini-series and the Blackhawk title for DC back in the 1980's.

"Follow The Money" pairs Batman and Catwoman in a Gotham City adventure. The plot begins with two interweaving events. The first storythread is action-oriented, as Batman and Catwoman each separately confront The Cavalier, a local costumed villain, who eludes both of our heroes. Secondly, news breaks in the Gotham media that three Wayne Enterprises company employees have looted the corporation's pension fund and are on the run. Both plot threads come together as our two heroes determine that The Cavalier is the mastermind behind the theft. Without being a detail spoiler, our duo have to work together on two fronts, capturing the villains and restoring the pension funding. By issue's end, many complicated story details come together in a satisfactory resolution.

Reading any new Chaykin comic book has to take into account Chaykin's iconic reputation for that particular storytelling style of his that pioneered the late 20th century comics industry advancement into literate graphic storytelling. Here, he demonstrates that he still has the touch in this one-shot extra-length story, successfuly applying his unique blend of pop culture references, noir detective story elements, science fiction and jazz culture into a fresh and entertaining Batman/Catwoman tale. The story is simply mezmerising at times, flowing with flawless dialogue between our two heroes as they playfully bicker and banter their way through a complex financial crime scenario with costumed villainy behind the entire mess. The dual narrative is similar to the Superman/Batman comic title, in which the reader sees how Batman and Catwoman interpret shared experienced events differently.

There have been so many Batman/Catwoman comics over the years that its not fair to expect the latest adventure of the pair to break any new ground. As such, its a tremendous treat to find that Chaykin has delivered the unexpected, and serves-up a wonderful, extra-long adventure blending his own special storytelling approach with a just-plain-interesting and fun Gotham tale. So a strong thumbs-up positive recommendation to add this unique and excellent Gotham tale to your constantly-expanding new issues reading pile. You won't be sorry!

Halcyon #3
Publisher: Image Comics
Marc Guggenheim & Tara Butters: Writers
Ryan Bodenheim: Art
Mark Englert: Colors
Image Comics is up to issue #3 of a new superhero comic entitled Halcyon. The series is written by Marc Guggenheim and Tara Butters, with art by Ryan Bodenheim and colors by Mark Englert. An brief inside-the-front-cover narrative summarizes the multi-issue story arc so far. The premise is that all war, violence and individual aggression among mankind has recently and mysteriously stopped, thus leading to two questions-why exactly have all humans on the planet become so passively nonaggressive, and what is the role of the world's superheroes in this new world reality?

The issue #3 story segment alternates between a few subplots that focus on a handful of superheroes who apparently make-up a superhero team called Halcyon. The main plotthread features Devlin, a Batman-like character who suspects a villainous conspiracy behind the new reality. Teaming-up with an unnamed flying superheroine, Devlin pursues his theory that another superheroine named Psiclops, who manifests strong psionic powers, is somehow embroiled in the conspiracy. The pair's investigation confirms Devlin's theory; the tension grows as they pursue clues to a deserted lab in Iceland, leading to a very unexpected and climactic end-of-issue discovery which I won't reveal in this review.

This is an absorbing new title and story concept in many respects. The artistic style, plot concept and overall story atmosphere are very similar to the best elements of Warren Ellis's acclaimed Planetary series, echoing Ellis's story universe concept of technological mysteries secretly out-of-control and threatening the basic nature of existance. There's also an intriguing emotional element to this tale, in which superheroes who are suddenly not needed by the world react in one of two ways: some, such as the heroine on the issue #3 cover, react with emotional breakdown leading to devastating consequences, while others such as Devlin smell a conspiracy rat and decide to go on the offensive.

A well-deserved hats-off is also due to writers Marc Guggenheim and Tara Butters for exploring some intriguing side issues within the concept of this "What If The World All Went To Peace?" question. There's an intriguing section of the issue in which any researcher of the peaceful phenomenon is somehow psychologically diverted away from focusing on the peaceful phenomenon. Our hero Devlin pursues a bloody yet interesting strategy to address this problem, with successful results. However, my favorite story sub-plot features Damon Oculus, a Lex Luthor look-alike evil genius. Imprisoned in his jailcell, Oculus is also affected by the peaceful malaise effecting all of humanity. Stripped of all evil desires, out of boredom he puts his brilliant mind to good use, doodling lengthy equations on his cell walls that result in the cures for all forms of cancer!

I've read and reviewed over the past few years more comics than I can count that attempt to introduce us to worthwhile new superhero characters addressing a realistic world crisis situation. Most stumble to various degrees in trying to achieve these two worthwhile comic book storytelling goals. As such, those well-meaning but imperfect efforts all make Halcyon shine even brighter above the pack, as a great new comic that gives us solidly constructed and intriguing new superheroes dealing with a fascinating mystery that will keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat with every monthly issue. While Halcyon deserves a positive review in its own right, it also deserves the rare complement that this is a graphic storytelling creation deserved of comparison to the classic Planetary series.

Marineman #2
Publisher: Image Comics
Ian Churchill: Writer and Art
Ian Churchill and Alex Sollazzo: Colors
Another new comic title from Image Comics this week is Marineman, currently up to issue #2. The series is written and drawn by Ian Churchill with colors by Ian Churchill and Alex Sollazzo. Issue #2 is entitled "Deep Trouble" and is the latest installment in an ongoing multi-issue story arc. Marineman is Steve Ocean, a blond and burly twenty-something marine biologist who gave up academic research for television celebrity stardom as the host of an ocean environmental series. Steve made this career decision with the belief that he could help the world's oceanic eco-system more by educating the masses and bringing environmental awareness to the average person. Our scientist friend is also harboring a secret that only a few folk know, including his military scientist father-that he also has some superhero abilities, including super strength and the ability to hold his breath underwater for extremely long periods of time.

The "Deep Trouble" title of issue #2 is dead-on, as Steve Ocean deals with a host of problems. One issue is Steve being ordered by his military researcher dad to play good host to the visiting career soldier daughter of an old colleague. Said guest has little respect for Steve's choice to go the celebrity t.v. route, leading to ongoing tension between the pair. Steve's troubles escalate during a live telecast of his t.v. show. When his best friend is attacked by a shark, Steve has no choice but to rescue his buddy, revealing to the entire television audience his secret superhero powers. Issue #2 ends in an interesting bridge to next month's story installment, revealing that an elderly, unnamed villain has also watched the live television event and has evil intentions toward our hero.

Marineman is a positive breath of fresh air, taking a different storytelling tack away from today's mainstream of often jaded and grim superhero comic titles. Its fair to complement this comic book as a positive throwback, combining a plotline featuring undersea and on-land action and adventure with an almost innocent educative message about ocean protection. The result is a nicely-styled comic title starring a new superhero who's a little bit like Aquaman but mainly a regular scientist, intent on dealing in his own small but effective way with the ongoing worldwide crisis of ocean resource depletion. There's also an excellent two-page feature in the back of the book interviewing a National Geographic-affiliated scientist regarding the world's oceanic issues.
It's rare to find a comic book that so seamlessly blends a real-world scientific issue with comic book entertainment, as well as one that appeals to and entertains readers of all ages. So whether you're looking for a new water-based hero, interested in the world's oceans or just want a plainly-good quality comic book story to read, you won't go wrong becoming a well-entertained fan of this new comic book title from Image Comics.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to answer the baseball trivia question asking who is the only person to ever wear the uniforms of all four New York-area major league baseball teams-the New York Yankees, Giants, Mets and the Brooklyn Dodgers. And our contest winner by a roll of the dice from among the correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who correctly identified that person as baseball legend Casey Stengel, who played for the Giants and Dodgers, and managed the Yankees, Dodgers and Mets. Congratulations to Kevin, who is the winner of our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges has decreed that we hold a trivia contest this week in honor of all of those second-string, B-list, benchwarmer, back-up characters that inhabit all of our favorite television animated shows. After all, where would our favorite animated t.v. stars, from Fred Flintstone to Homer Simpson, be without all of their friends, neighbors and colleagues? So your challenge this week is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the answer to the following question: What animated television show features the minor, secondary character Eleanor Abernathy, and by what nickname is she better known as? As always, in the event of more than one correct entry, we'll select the winner of our $10.00 prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.

That's all for now, so pace yourself in shoveling-out from under our non-stop snow, have a great comic book-reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

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